TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES: African-American Notes on the State of the Union by June Jordan

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES: African-American Notes on the State of the Union

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Essays by the activist poet (Civil Wars, 1981, etc.) that offer moments of insight or interpretation but are best for fellow progressives. Jordan (African-American Studies/UC at Berkeley) articulates positions, confronts ambiguities, rallies the troops, salves wounds. In these pieces (most from 1986-92, many from The Progressive), Jordan tries to reconcile art and racial, (bi) sexual, and feminist political commitments. Strikingly, it is never Jordan's own identity being questioned, sought, and defined but, rather, America's. The author pays tribute to her Jamaican immigrant parents--true believers in the American Dream--and to the thriving black Brooklyn community where she grew up (described in the press--to her bemusement--as ""breeding grounds of despair""). There are civics lessons about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (showing how African-Americans and women only gradually--through popular pressure--gained rights); a powerful exploration of the American idealization of individuality and of the artist's quest for obligation-free solitude (showing how these attitudes, which Jordan says deny collective responsibility, lead to personal and societal tragedy). Jordan fights back against sociopolitical attacks on black mothers; speaks up for Palestinian rights; celebrates Martin Luther King while affirming the leadership capacities ""within each one of us""; can't forgive Mike Tyson for rape yet mourns his downfall and the society he grew in. She calls for multicultural education; turns to Shakespeare for solace; decries the p.c. debate as a red herring while the scandalous deficiencies of community colleges go ignored. Her account of how Jesse Jackson's 1988 candidacy was scuttled tells truths while being unduly selective. Moving, inspiring at beat; mildly informative but too often sketchy.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1992
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Pantheon